"Rare are the moments in American history when a Congress has surrendered so many cherished freedoms in a single trip to the altar of immediate fear," writes John Nichols regarding the ambitiously named Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT) Act which was recently approved by Congress. In addition to authorizing unprecedented levels of surveillance and incarceration of both U.S. citizens and non-citizens, several provisions of USA PATRIOT explicitly target people simply for engaging in speech protected by the First Amendment. It expands the ability of police to spy on telephone and internet correspondence in anti-terrorism investigations and in routine criminal investigations unrelated to terrorism; makes the payment of membership dues to political organizations a deportable offense, and creates a broad new definition of "domestic terrorism" that could target people who engage in acts of political protest and subject them to wiretapping and enhanced penalties.
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